Nigeria’s transport ministry has turned down requests to make public details of its recent concession of the Kaduna-Abuja rail ticketing, amid concerns over the valuation of the deal.
The government announced in January that a private company will manage the electronic ticketing of the Abuja-Kaduna line for 10 years.
The company, SecureID Solutions, which developed the platform, paid N900 million and would run the platform for a decade to recoup its cost, authorities said.
At the launch, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi, said the initiative is a Public Private Partnership, and that the firm will hand the system back to the Nigerian Railway Corporation after the period.
The government said the initiative will address complaints about ticket racketeering, and will enhance efficiency, save time and promote accountability.
The N900 million paid by the concessionaire to run the system for a decade raised concerns as the NRC had earlier admitted the Kaduna-Abuja line generated as much as N1.5 billion in 2019 alone.
The track is estimated to generate over N15 billion during the period of its being administered by the private firm, considering that revenue is likely to grow with the new platform blocking leakages.
Critics have raised questions about how the proceeds will be shared with the government, and the costs and margin of return to the company given the amount it paid.
”The contract appears ridiculous,” said Ajibola Tijani, team lead at Aqua Green Consulting and Construction company.
“What were the considerations given to them? We need to know how they came about the process, how will they deploy the machine, the staff payment and all that,” he said.
For months, PREMIUM TIMES tried to obtain clarification and details of the project from the government without success.
Those attempts, including a Freedom of Information request, visits to the ministry and NRC offices in Abuja and Lagos, telephone calls, messages and several reminders, were ignored by the transport ministry and the railway corporation.
The spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation, Eric Ojiekwe, initially referred this newspaper to the NRC, which promised to release details of the contract but repeatedly failed to do so.
PREMIUM TIMES in February visited the office of the director of procurement of the NRC, Ben Iloanusi, in Lagos, to request details of the contract. The official asked the reporter to return the next day, promising to release the document. When this reporter returned, he requested a letter, and an FOI was duly submitted.
Several calls and messages followed without a response.
“Everybody is running things the way they want because they know there is no consequence,” said Martins Obono, who leads Tap iNitiative, an accountability organisation.
Mr Obono said relevant agencies like the ICPC should demand answers why the ticketing was even outsourced when the NRC should be able to manage it.
According to a tweet by the special assistant to President Muhammed Buhari on digital and new media, Tolu Ogunlesi, after the conclusion on the request for proposal, evaluation exercise, Secure ID solutions emerged as the preferred bidder, while Turnaround Engineering Limited was second in ranking and reserved bidder.
The Infrastructure concession regulatory commission (ICRC) issued the full business case compliance certificate for the Online Ticketing Solution in September 2019.
The Secure ID Solutions was established in 2017 and is led by Kofo Akinkugbe.
According to Ms Akinkugbe, the e-ticketing for the rail line heralds the nation’s entry into the new age of “multi-model ticketing in public transportation while allowing for passengers convenience, efficiency and accountability for operators and providing data for government for better decision making.”
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